MORE FLIGHTS: Air Seychelles, which is using a new Airbus A330-200 on its Joburg route, is expanding its services.

Cape Town is the third most popular destination for British Airways customers this season, according to Daniel Bainbridge, the airline’s commercial development manager in South Africa.

He said that out of 175 destinations worldwide, only New York and Miami attracted more bookings than Cape Town, with Dubai the fourth most popular choice and Hong Kong the fifth. This must increase our chances of being among the first cities to be served by one of the revolutionary new Boeing Dreamliner aircraft BA has ordered, with deliveries due to start in May.

Frank van der Post, the airline’s managing director responsible for customer experience, told me on a visit to this country in June last year he would recommend that one should be used on the Cape Town route, and we may hear later this month whether this is likely.

BA will be the first European airline to use the Dreamliner and the giant Airbus A380.

Air France and German airline Lufthansa are using the A380 on their Joburg routes and BA, which is to take delivery of its first one in August, is expected to do so too. BA’s Dreamliners will be configured to carry 214 passengers, with 35 seats in business class, 25 in economy plus and 154 in economy.

Not only will they have the latest Thales in-flight entertainment system, with larger screens in all cabins, but they will also allow personal devices, including laptops, to be connected, using in-seat power.

l Middle Eastern airline Etihad, which withdrew from Cape Town but still flies daily to Joburg, has developed a policy of investing in other airlines. It took a 40 percent share in Air Seychelles two years ago, when the islands’ popularity as a holiday destination increased. As a result Air Seychelles, which was struggling, is now growing rapidly and is due to expand its route network to include Hong Kong in a few months.

South Africans already have a choice of daily flights to Hong Kong with SAA or Cathay Pacific Airlines from Joburg.

But Air Seychelles is expanding its services to Joburg’s OR Tambo Airport by a third to benefit from SAA’s policy of developing the airport as a hub connecting an increasing number of international flights, particularly to other parts of Africa. Air Seychelles is changing its services from overnight to daily to offer more convenient connections.

As a result we can expect to see more Chinese and African visitors to this country, many of whom may come on to Cape Town as well as stopping off in Joburg.

Air Seychelles does not fly to Cape Town, but it is emphasising the increased number of connections to this city as a result of the stepping up of its services to South Africa. It is also using a new Airbus A330-200 on its Johannesburg route.

l Although Cape Town International Airport was busy last month, with many South African holidaymakers returning home after Christmas as foreign tourists arrived, the total of about 760 000 passengers was six percent lower than at the same time last year.

Deidre Davids, head of communications at the airport, attributed this to the withdrawal of Etihad’s daily flights from Abu Dhabi, SAA’s daily flights to London, and Air Malaysia’s four flights a week.

Two domestic services were also lost when Velvet Sky went out of business and 1time went into provisional liquidation, although it is expected to start flying again if negotiations to take it over by London-listed Fastjet are successful. - Weekend Argus